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Washington, DC May 20, 2020 – The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) expressed dismay over the announcement by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) extending indefinitely their order blocking entry to asylum seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border.

AILA Executive Director Benjamin Johnson said, “The Administration’s latest move to suspend immigration into the U.S. and to indefinitely close the U.S. border under the guise of stemming the spread of COVID-19 is a political decision—not a public safety action. Until the virus is under control, protecting the health and safety of our communities is the most important priority. Even during the pandemic, the United States has the capacity to honor U.S. humanitarian law that protects asylum seekers. Given the life or death stakes, asylum seekers should be treated no less favorably than the workers and other people who are still be allowed to travel for ‘essential’ purposes. How can we turn away a mother and child fleeing from violent persecution while still allowing others to enter? Closing the border may meet the longstanding desire of the Trump administration to restrict entry, but they are using the pandemic to completely circumvent our international obligations and U.S. asylum laws.

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“The indefinite shuttering of our southern border is an unnecessary measure masquerading as a public health response to COVID-19. We can safely monitor the border during the pandemic while also ensuring people fleeing persecution get a careful screening to determine if they qualify for relief. Every person being processed for asylum is already screened carefully for any health risks. What’s more, the United States is generating the most cases, so it is completely irrational to think we will prevent the spread of the disease by blocking people fleeing for their lives at the border. The Trump Administration has already forced tens of thousands of individuals into unspeakable dangers in Mexico through the ‘Migrant Protection Protocols.’ Real lives are at stake, and our nation has the know-how and resources to protect those entitled to protection under the law. Turning our back on all protection seekers does not safeguard our nation—it erodes our values and violates our proud history of protecting those who face persecution based on their race, religion, political opinion or membership in a particular social group.”

The American Immigration Lawyers Association is the national association of immigration lawyers established to promote justice, advocate for fair and reasonable immigration law and policy, advance the quality of immigration and nationality law and practice, and enhance the professional development of its members.